There are a lot of vegans around at the moment, don’t you think? Or perhaps there’s just lots of vegan cookbooks coming out. It’s very fashionable. Maybe, in practice, there’s only one actual vegan per cookbook published and the ‘plant-based’ Instagram megastars are only followed by committed carnivores watching in fascinated horror. One can hope.
Still, the feeling is that all the cool kids are going plant-based, or talking about it at least. This latest incarnation of vegans is not militant like the ones we got in the 90s with their PETA badges and dreadlocks (hey, I’m not knocking it, I had dreads for 4 years, but that’s another story…). No, the new vegans are far less politically motivated. It’s often diet that’s central now. I’m not sure which sort of vegan frightens me more. At least the hardcore vegans knew their argument and were passionate about it. I fear the new veganism is just a very, very restrictive weight loss regime, a fill in for the hole left when ‘clean eating’ got debunked. At worst, it’s an eating disorder with a pretty face. (The Balanced Blonde blogger, Jordan Younger, wrote more about this on her blog when she decided to stop being a vegan.)
Nonetheless, the vegan thing has struck a chord. Perhaps that’s because we appreciate the need to cut down on the amount of animal products we for our own health as much as the planet’s. But what do we do if you have these sympathies but don’t think the extreme solution is for us? (that’s me, by the way.)
Well, predictably, moderation is the answer.
Far less fashionable. Not nearly as neatly packaged. It certainly won’t make for such a pretty Instagram account and ‘Moderation: the cookbook’ isn’t exactly a bestseller in the making, but it’s the truth. Attempts have been made to give it a fancy name – Flexitarianism – but I’m not sure the world needs another ism, are you?
Anyway, call it what you will, this is my approach, and it’s very simple: eat more plants.
Eat more plants … and there’s less room on your plate for meat.
Eat more plants … and you’ll be doing the environment a favour (specially if those plants are local, seasonal and organic, which, because you aren’t buying as much meat, will be easier to afford now.)
Eat more plants … and, when you do eat meat, you’ll be able to spend more buying the best quality meat you can, thus supporting sustainable agriculture.
Eat more plants … and you’ll be healthier (assuming, in my view, plants isn’t all you eat.)
Well, when I think about what to cook for supper I’ve tried starting with the vegetables I have rather than the meat then building a dish around that.
For example, I used to think, “I have pork in the fridge, so I’ll cook that with some of the spinach glut and those big mushrooms I’ve got in a white wine sauce.”
Now I’m trying, “I have a spinach glut so I’ll stuff it in some of those big mushrooms I’ve got and top it with some parmesan-y breadcrumbs”.
Admittedly, it’s easy when you have a glut of veg that needs eating. A fridge full of spinach really focuses the mind. But you see my point.
I suppose it’s predictable that I, with my vegetable obsession and love of plants should come to the solution of eating more plants. But I’ve always been a carrot not a stick sort of person (excuse the pun!) and I don’t think I’m alone. If we focus on eating more of something rather than denying ourselves it all feels much easier to stick to.
People get very het up about meat eating and if veganism is your thing, be my guest. Each to their own I say. But for me, a lover of vegetables, the interest in plant-based is an opportunity to champion a veg-heavy diet with occasional meat. It’s health, it’s good for the environment, but, most importantly of all, it is delicious.
PS – here come the caveats! I’m not anti-vegan, I am passionate about animal welfare, yes I do think you can be an environmentalist and non-vegan, I’m just saying what works for me, so don’t start, alright? Also, this clearly isn’t a comprehensive argument, it’s a blog not a thesis ok? There’s all sorts of other things I could continue to rant about because it’s not just about meat v plants. If we’re talking sustainability, we must also talk nose-to-tail, sourcing, farming policy etc etc. But we’ll save that for another time, don’t you think?